Sounds perfectly logical

Benefit sanctions, whereby social security claimants have their payments stopped for at least a month as a punishment for supposedly breaching strict jobcentre rules, are a key driver of hunger and food bank use, according to a study carried out by Oxford University academics.

The study, which mapped official sanctions data against food bank referral figures, concluded that a “robust link” existed between increases in the number of benefit sanctions handed out and rising numbers of adults receiving food parcels.

Not sure I’d want to say it’s exclusively about sanctions though. I would have thought the normal number of state fuck ups should be counted too.

Ministers have persistently refused to accept that welfare reforms are connected to the explosion in food bank use in recent years, despite a number of studies that link sanctions and benefit processing delays to financial crises which leave individuals and families reliant on food parcels.

I would guess that the important part is in the first clause of that sentence. If increased use is due to “welfare reforms” then everyone gets to scream austerity. And that’s not really the point, is it?

27 thoughts on “Sounds perfectly logical”

  1. “The study said its findings validated calls for an official review of sanctions and called on the government to “consider whether stopping basic income payments for vulnerable, out-of-work groups is a fair penalty, or whether the long shadow of the harms associated with this practice (eg food insecurity) outweigh any positive outcome of sanctioning”.”

    Like, I suppose, them actually getting a job?

  2. I’ve noted that articles about the victims of sanctioning, even the sympathetic ones in the Graun, tend to feature people who not only have zero intent to ever work, but can’t even be bothered to turn up for the odd meeting to ensure their continued state funding.

    It’s never just, miss one appointment and lose your benefits. It’s about missing 3 in a row without explanation.

  3. Realistically, what other effective penalty is there for people getting freebies at the taxpayer’s expense?

  4. I’ve had JSA stopped. To be fair, it was the contributions based variant, and was the correct call as I was passively rather than actively seeking work. Best thing that happened at the time, as it took the stress off, and could concentrate on selective job-seeking.
    I notice that for functional purposes food bank use in the UKis down compared to 2009-2010 ( that function being short-term financial or material help ). Also that the system of food banks in the bits of Europe where EU funding is involved is a few times more expensive in meals per head than the Trussell Trust system.

  5. Realistically, what other effective penalty is there for people getting freebies at the taxpayer’s expense?

    There is the typical solution favoured by socialists: cattle trucks and gas chambers or gulags.

  6. >There is the typical solution favoured by socialists: cattle trucks and gas chambers or gulags.

    Typical squandering of resources, when we have a shortage of organ donors. Two birds, one stone. Hey, I’m just saying.

  7. If they want a system of benefits that has fuck-all to do with trying to get a job, they can put it in a manifesto, put it to the electorate, put it in a bill, put it to Parliament. Who knows? I might even vote for it myself. But, as it is, we have a system of benefits that requires the recipients offering some minimal evidence that they’re trying to get a job. Given that, what’s the problem here?

  8. @ Squander Two
    “If they want a system of benefits that has fuck-all to do with trying to get a job”
    We’ve got one – it’s called the old age pension. Yeah, lots of people voted for it.
    There’s another for the physically handicapped and single mothers with small children, which means that the Grauniad cannot produce its usual victim for this article.
    But, as you say, JSA claims to be for people looking for work

  9. I thought you got contributions-based JSA for six months regardless, it was only means-tested JSA that could be taken away from you. It’s a compulsary savings plan, it’s your money.

    My last job finsihed three weeks ago and for some bizarre reason I’m now expected to sign on every week. That puts a real crimp in trying to get another job.

    Last week an agency phoned me but I had my phone turned off in the job centre and by the time I got out the job had got. Spending hours a day uselessly trawling through job vacancies to tick their box is time I could be more productively doing something else, like catching up on my own life.

  10. jgh – I keep my phone on in the jobcentre. I’m not using their services as such though. Wife is – and boy is it hard to get help from the staff. Security guards were better help.

  11. The welfare bill keeps rising but the people at the bottom are getting less of it.
    Perhaps if we just sacked all the people from the Minister down to the Jobcentre mangers there would be more than enough cash to pay for all the jobseekers and still halve the welfare bill.

  12. Hmm, let me guess.
    Were these sanctions imposed because Mr or Mrs “I know my rights” continued to abuse job centre staff despite repeated warnings?

  13. I lost 2 weeks’ worth of JSA once for saying I was unavailable for work on a particular Friday, as I was going to be travelling that afternoon. The fact that was actively seeking work – and indeed I got myself a job interview over the phone that morning – was apparently neither here nor there.

    The main lesson it taught me was that the system is arbitrary, unfair, and intolerant, and if you simply act in a reasonable manner you will get unreasonable outcomes. So you have to act in an unreasonable manner… and they wonder why people get upset.

  14. A rather interesting factoid about state pension is that it gets paid to you gross, but is counted as income, and therefore if you have any other form of pension or heaven forbid, a job, the tax gets deducted there. In my case, that’s 40%, so in practice, I get £300 a month, not £500. I bet you that the statistics don’t take that into account. I also paid the maximum NI for about half my working life, so I get three fifths of what someone who paid peanuts gets.

    On the basis that I work about 2 days a week for the state before I see a penny, why is it wrong that the unemployed or even the disabled might have to give up 2 days of their time every week to get their benefits?

    Plus, if I don’t work, I get nowt (from the job), so why is it wrong that someone who doesn’t turn up to the interview to confirm their continuing availability gets nowt too?

  15. It’s interesting, hearing others’ accounts of their experience of JSA.

    I had to claim it for the first time about 18 months ago- the guy who advised me (or whatever the correct term is) was great. Saw him ever week for a month or so, and then it was a twice a month deal thereafter.

    I mean, the sums claimed were peanuts, and he could clearly see I was working my nuts off to find another job, and he did all he could to not fuck things up for me.

    I don’t know if this was because the job centre was in a fairly pleasant town, or because I just got on fairly well with the guy, but the bits he could help with, he really helped with, and the stuff he couldn’t (child benefit, council tax) he gave good advice.

    Although reinstating child benefit appears to be beyond HMRC’s ability

  16. Witchie
    I think that you mean “heaven forfend” – unless the job is doing evil. You and I do not actually need a pension from the state so it is not unreasonable that it, like any other income, is taxable. But you would win your bet because there are no statistics on after-tax costs of almost anything due to laws requiring HMRC not to release confidential data about individuals.
    I think the debate is largely about whether someone who has a good excuse for missing one interview – such as the bus not turning up (not everyone can walk to their JobCentre) should lose their sole source of income for a month. I wasn’t punished by my employer when I didn’t get to work one day because when I got to the station I found there were no trains because there were fallen trees blocking the line.

  17. John Square – I also found the staff could be really helpful. They basically left me to get on with it, when I pointed out that very few professional roles come up in the Jobcentre systems, and professional press and agencies would be much better routes.

    They also paid for me to get a personal licence, even though it was nothing to do with the jobs I was looking for, and would have put me through first aid training if I hadn’t gotten a job first. They seemed to be happy to have someone to spend a bit of their training budget on 🙂

    It was just the systems that were stupidly inflexible… :-\

  18. Yes, with the job I had that’s just finished the Job Centre paid my travel costs down to south-of-Brum for three days training without which I wouldn’t have got the job. So, in some cases things do work right.

    Before that it was a nightmare though, as I was averaging 2.5 days work a week, so still had to sign on and submit payslips to show when I’d been working so the benefits service could dock my JSA. I was in the ridiculous position that if I did less than 1.5 day’s work in one week I was losing money (JSA deducted plus travel costs being greater than wages received), but if I refused to do that work I’d have had my JSA taken away from me.

  19. Back when I was signed on, I informed them that I would be away for two weeks (arranged and bought when I’d had a job) so wouldn’t claim for that period. They asked me about it, discovered one of the two weeks would be spent in another part of the UK, and therefore told me to claim for that week. I said no, as I wouldn’t be seeking work at that time, but they insisted. They made me fill out complicated forms to apply for pay for that week. Then they turned down the application. Then they gave me a hard time for making such an unreasonable request.

  20. Like every other category of people that you *have* to contact, it’s all down to the individual – even in a JobCentre there can be decent guys (as seen by John Square) and gamma-males trying to boost their egos by oppressing genuine claimants. I attended JobCentre when I was made redundant, not because I needed the few £ but because I was told I should lose my state pension if I didn’t and the difference between the individuals was startling: any job that I could do was in London (or Edinburgh, or further away e.g. Novosibirsk) – some accepted that but one individual insisted that I apply for any unskilled job on his neighbourhood list of vacancies [as a matter of principle I appealed his decision and had it overturned].

  21. I was told I should lose my state pension if I didn’t

    Probably true, and insane.

    But it’s not true? It’s the total number of accumulated years contributed that affects the state pension.

    Two weeks off or whatever has no effect. You can skip a year or two with impunity as long as you have the requisite number of years contributed, by the time that you come to retire.

  22. @ PF
    It certainly was not true by the time I reached SPA – I had no idea whether it was true at the time (the rules have changed to bewnefit slackers atthe expenses of workers and I cannot find out whether it was true at the time).

  23. @ PF
    The first time that I was made redundant I was 45 so fine-tuning a year with no NI contributions ddn’t look like a good risk-related bet.

  24. Don’t know anything about state pensions, but (as I wrote) it was certainly true very recently that missing two weeks of NI contributions by not signing on meant that you didn’t qualify for any out-of-work benefits, ten years of contributions be damned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *